The consumption of goods and services in one place can be a driver of negative environmental and social impacts around the world. Government at different levels can have a strong influence on consumption and its impacts, through their own procurement and through policy measures aimed to incentivize sustainable consumption or penalize unsustainable consumption.
Using systematic review techniques, this paper reviews the latest evidence on the importance, effectiveness, successes and failures of local government in advancing sustainable consumption.
The paper finds that there is little focus on sustainable consumption in its entirety or whether it is being achieved at the local government level. Important categories like food consumption, local government procurement, water services, waste prevention, clothing, other consumables or services are insufficiently studied. Evaluation of the outcome of sustainable consumption interventions was limited, and the assessments that have been completed have given mixed results.
The review showed that the most popular policy instruments used by local governments to promote sustainable consumption were of the less coercive administrative and informative type. Multiple barriers to the success of an intervention were identified, the top ones being funding; staff capacity, knowledge or data; lack of flexibility and lock-in to the status quo; lack of guidance or political will; administrative burdens; and lack of regulatory powers or tools.
Sustainable consumption interventions by local government were found to be most effective when they had strong leadership, good stakeholder engagement, participatory approaches and extensive consultations.